Records what one city is doing to solve the problem of tomorrow's (and today's) drivers, narrated by James Stewart.
Ken Smith sez: This deceptively simple film works on several levels at once. It's ostensibly about "one of the most interesting and important experiments in driver education today" -- the insane K through 3 driver ed courses at Garfield Elementary School in Phoenix, Arizona -- but it's really about the older generation desperately trying to program reckless driving (i.e. rebellion) out of their kids.
Throughout this film, while happy, childlike music plays underneath, Jimmy S. talks about "good citizenship behind the steering wheel" and "courtesy," "self-control," "good sportsmanship," "respect for the rights of others," "good driving attitudes," a "code of driving ethics," and "the need for rules and regulations." "At a most impressionable time of life," Jimmy explains, "an important rule of society is learned: laws are meant not to restrict, but to protect." Whoa...and you thought this was a film about driver education! Beyond this level, one wonders how much of what we see in this film is actually real, and how much was merely staged by Chevrolet.
This film leaves little doubt that the kute kids in their kiddie kars are only a convenient metaphor for older drivers, as the tots reenact bad driving situations while Jimmy moans about "a few childish, inconsiderate drivers" and tells us "bad driving habits are childish." Think about it -- what possible good does it do to teach driving to a six-year-old?
The method this film uses to convince us that the kids really are learning about driving is even more bizarre; we see children playing musical chairs, only "the familiar games of kindergarten have been modernized to teach a life-saving lesson: the meaning of Stop and Go." In practice the kids hold little fake steering wheels in their hands and have to lunge for a chair when another kid pivots a "Go" sign so that it says "Stop." Even more nutty is the "Phoenix Link Trainer," a pedal-propelled kiddie car that the youngsters maneuver in a parking lot. Jimmy imbues this with all manner of significance. We see a kid dressed in coveralls peering under the hood (at what, the pedals?) and we see "hot rodders" sitting glumly on a bench, their driving privileges revoked. "Traffic violators get tickets and are brought to trial before a jury of their classmates."
All this is mere prelude to the second half of the film, where we see the teens. A girl sits in a Chevrolet ("a fine, modern car") for driving training, but it will be a snap since she's been learning "since childhood." Oh? Are we to believe the stuff in this film has been going on since 1938? We see a "hot rod club" where "the boys themselves will drop a member for even a minor traffic violation." Then we see a "juvenile lawbreaker" get sent to "attitude school"(!) where he is exposed to "scientific tests" and which seems populated to a suspicious degree by photogenic, fresh-faced girls. The boy gets his license back and in the very next shot we see him in a suit and tie, holding the car door open for his date!
Only in America could driver education be sold as a linchpin of social adjustment.
Tomorrow's Drivers risks being viewed as mere novelty, but is actually a profound film. It shows how the Phoenix, Arizona public schools Ñ on the single-minded initiative of Judge Charles C. Bernstein Ñ integrated driver education into their curriculum, beginning with kindergarteners. As it turned out, however, driver ed was about much more than safety and the rules of the road. The Phoenix authorities recognized the importance of driving in our culture and used driver ed as a vehicle for instilling lessons in social control. Could there be a more American way of teaching kids how to toe the line?
Avuncular narrator Jimmy Stewart explains some of the lessons of this experiment (a long-term project that earned a laudatory article in Look magazine). "At a most impressionable time of life," he explains, "an important rule of society is learned: laws are meant not to restrict, but to protect." He also speaks of "self-control," "courtesy," "respect for the rights of others," and "the need for rules and regulations." And not only are the children in their pedal cars playing adult roles and obeying the rules grownups obey, they're also serving as surrogates to help educate older drivers in proper habits and behavior.
"It seems that the younger we are, the faster we can learn new things. And it seems the earlier we learn something, the more likely it is to become a part of our basic character." Consistent with the Cold War effort to reinforce faith in American institutions of authority, the Phoenix program touted the power of the police officer. As Stewart said, "even the smallest children learn that the big men in the blue uniforms are their friends."
The "drivocentric" curriculum incorporated a number of educational innovations. Musical chairs became a game that taught "the meaning of Stop and Go." Children who violate traffic rules were benched, issued tickets and tried before a "jury of their classmates." Older, thrill-seeking "hot-rod addicts" found their energy co-opted into safe, organized clubs, a common Fifties practice. Drag racing was moved from the city streets to an abandoned military airstrip. And enforcement of the rules was put in the hands of the clubs: "the boys themselves will drop a member for even a minor traffic violation...that's a tougher sentence than a police judge could or would impose." And every juvenile traffic offender was sent to the Maricopa County Teen-Age Drivers' Attitude School, headquartered in Bernstein's chambers.
Judge Charles C. Bernstein's driver education program was part of a much broader effort to oversee and control the development of teenagers as social animals. What seems on the surface to be benevolent intervention in the interest of traffic safety was, in fact, a significant surveillance and monitoring apparatus. After his appointment to the Juvenile Court bench in 1949, Bernstein established Central Index, a confidential records system modeled after J. Edgar Hoover's FBI files. Curfew violators and other delinquents' names were entered into this system, and repeated offenses resulted in visits to parents and possibly charges for contributing toward juvenile delinquency. As Dan Fowler wrote in Look: "consider...the case of the girl found in a parked car. Her parents thought she was baby-sitting every night, until Central Index exposed the deception. Now her free time is taken up with constructive activities worked out by a juvenile officer and her family."
Although few other cities went as far as Phoenix in the supervision and monitoring of adolescent behavior, the Phoenix system bears a strong resemblance to Senator Joseph McCarthy's personal crusade against alleged Communist party members in the federal government. With the ability to name, shun, isolate and jail people, McCarthy and his inquisitory organization (active at exactly the same time as Judge Bernstein's) enforced caution and consensus among Americans. Both efforts were as concerned with "attitude" as with actual lawbreaking. Both were highly personalized. And both went far beyond their ostensible concerns (anti-Communism and traffic safety) to intervene in every detail of their subjects' lives.
Various scenes of driver education in the Phoenix, Arizona public schools. Phoenix starts to teach driving and auto safety early in the game -- the first children we see must be fourth or fifth graders.
CU homemade SLOW CURVE road sign
fade to miniature SLOW CURVE sign with children driving toy cars (miniature pedal cars)
VS kids passing each other in toy cars, driving around road track in small cars
Boy stops car, another car rams into him; he turns around to yell
Young girl runs STOP sign
Shot of woman and policeman standing on curb as kids drive around them
Traffic jam occurs and woman teacher walks out into middle of small cars and blows her whistle
MCU real life traffic jam
automobile makes left turn
CU woman and child in car, woman runs STOP sign
Car drives up in front of school, dog walks into frame
CU school facade GARFIELD SCHOOL (Phoenix, Arizona)
CU Bicycles parked in rack, woman and little girl walk into picture, woman kisses girl on forehead; girl runs into playground where kids are jumping rope
CU group of children seated on bleachers, laughing
MCU Policeman doing magic tricks for children
MCU children playing musical chairs using STOP and GO signs to start and stop music.
CU classroom traffic light, cut to MCU real traffic light
MCU teacher crossing street with class of children
VS teacher and kids in classroom playing with toy cars on table
Classroom and teacher standing around miniature car
Boy climbs into car (mounted on blocks)
Boy driving in miniature car; comes to crosswalk and stops to let other children walk across
Boy parks in "parking lot"
CU 2 young boys looking into hood of miniature car
VS kids driving miniature cars on driving course
simulated busy road
simulated country road
young girl getting traffic ticket
group of kids on bench (revoked licenses)
CU kids going thru intersection or turning
CU kids on bicycles being taught rules.
MCU kids lined up against fence outside Gymnasium
as one kid sits in life sized car awaiting driver's lesson
Car drives off, VS car moving
CU 4 guys (gearheads, mechanics) fixing inside of car (engine) (VS)
VS organized drag race on dragstrip, 2 cars racing
shot of policeman on motorcycle stopping car for traffic violation
Kid and parents in judge's chambers
Scenes from "Attitude School"
Girl pulling strings to manipulate small cars on small track
Girl with nose leaning against top of back of chair; she lifts her head and smiles
Young boy gets into police car with policeman
Young boy helps young girl into front seat of car, gets in and drives off.
Woman driving up to Stop sign and stopping.
Another shot list:
11:08:49:00 - 11:09:41:00
MCU traffic sign indicating "Slow Curve"; VS children driving in small pedal cars on track; one kid tries to pass other kid so as to get ahead; car stops, is banged in rear by car behind it; high shot intersection on children's track, car jam up; man and woman standing on corner; woman (schoolteacher) approaches intersection.
11:09:41:00 - 11:11:20:00
High shot traffic jam; MCU traffic jam; car cutting off other car; MS car driving down street; MCU woman driving car, young girl in passenger seat; car driving down street, goes through stop sign; MCU front seat of car; MS car stopping in front of school; CU building indicating "Garfield School"; MCU bikes, woman and young girl enter frame; woman kisses girl on forehead, pats her behind, she approaches group of children playing behind metal fence; MCU group of children sitting; MS magician performing magic tricks; VS children reacting to performance
11:11:20:00 - 11:11:40:00
MS children playing musical chairs; MCU young girl turning stop/go sign; MS young girl standing up approaching cardboard traffic light, MCU young girl pointing at red light on traffic light.
MCU traffic light; MS teacher with group of children crossing street; MS from back of classroom; MCU group of children sitting, holding books, stop sign, boy and girl painting in BG; MS children playing with small cars in mini town, woman enters frame; MCU woman placing piece of tape on boy's hand; MCU boy playing with toy car; MCU line of children holding toy cars; CU toy car; MS group of children watching woman and boy who gets into small version of a car; VS boy sitting in small car mounted on blocks, turns driving wheel, practices hand signals; MCU boy driving small car on mini track; MCU other boy driving small car, comes to a stop; gets out; MCU boys looking at engine of small car; VS children driving cars in pretend town; MS children on bikes.
MS car parked on side of street, girl in drivers seat, man approaches passenger door and gets into car, 6 other teenage students standing up on side of street next to parked car; MCU driver's door indicating "North Phoenix High, Student Driver Training"; MS of car, teenage driver gives hand signal, drives away; MS car driving down street, driver using hand signals; VS high-school boys working on engine of hot rod; MS 2 cars drag racing on dragstrip; LS car driving down road being pulled over by a policeman on motorcycle; MS man sitting at desk reading paper, man, woman, and young man sitting around him, (he appears to be a judge); MCU young man handing man license; VS class room were students are learning the rule of the road; MS young man speaking to police officer in front building indicating "Sheriffs Office", they are standing next to police car with door ajar, young man is holding onto door, officer pats him on the shoulder, they both get into car; MS young man seated speaking to man seated behind desk, man takes small piece of paper out of desk drawer, removes glasses, hands it to the young man, they both stand up, shake hands, young man exits frame; MCU side of car, young man and woman enter frame, man opens passenger door for woman, she gets in, man shuts door and proceeds around front of car getting into drivers side; MS car driving down street; MCU woman and young girl in front seat of car; MS car coming to complete stop; MCU woman and young girl speaking to each other; MS car pulling into street.
PHOENIX ARIZONA CHILDREN KIDDIE CARS AUTOMOBILES TRANSPORTATION CHEVROLET HEALTH AND SAFETY DRIVER EDUCATION TRAINING DRIVING RUNNING SHOTS TOYS HUMOR NARRATION STEWART, JAMES SCHOOLS TEACHERS Chevrolet Div., General Motors Corp. (sponsor) Automobiles Stewart, James (narrator) Children Signs (traffic) Phoenix, Arizona (driver education) Driver education Driving Traffic jams Safety Highway safety Safety education Signs ("Slow Curve") Automobiles (kiddie cars) Kiddie cars Cars (kiddie) Accidents (automobile, kiddie cars) Selfishness Competition Road hogs Signs ("Stop") Whistles Teachers Manners Courtesy (lack of) Mothers and daughters Schools Bicycles Playgrounds Games (playgrounds) Kindergarten Magic shows Rabbits Police (safety officers) Musical chairs Traffic lights Traffic lights (models) Crossing guards Reading (in classroom) Painting (in classroom) Hands Automobiles (toy) Toys (automobiles) Signals (hand) Hand signals Rules and regulations Punishment Laws Bicycle safety Driving lessons Hot rods Hot rod clubs Drag racing Automobiles (hot rods) Automobiles (racing) Automobiles (drag racing) Motorcycles (police) Police (motorcycles) Judges (traffic court) Traffic courts Traffic school Police cars
Subject: Better than "Queen for a Day" - Then again, what isn't?
The film itself has excellent footage of 1950s childrens fashions worn at school and stuff. It has good narration and no use of the phase "Doggie Yum Yums". Though I would have preferred more footage of actual cars of the time. The children in this film are obnoxiously cute in a good way. We have one major problem in this film, and that's the lack of refrigerators. It's a scientifically proven fact that all 1950s films are improved by footage of refrigerators.
Subject: Excellent little educational film
Subject: If only
Subject: You're never too young
a program in Phoenix to educate youngsters about good driving habits, starting in the first grade!
I was a first-grader in 1954, which means all those adorable little kids are now, like me, elderly coots!
Subject: Attitude School, Graduate
Each year the show is "more wondrous?"
Gee, I suppose the put-on wasn't identical to the beaten-to-death “illusions" presented for generations, prior.
Yet, the kiddies do learn, "the big man in the blue uniform is their friend!!" (It'll be years later when the small-fries become aware that the badged-freak desires nothing more than to use anything those tiny-gifts-from-God say against them.)
And what better message could be delivered to tiny ears than the one that blurts, "Laws are written not to restrain but to protect!" Which is a valuable lesson to attempt passing-off as reality. Otherwise the tots might come to the knowledge that legislators - who were certainly dateless in highschool and who are currently involved in sickly marriages - wrote the spiteful, inane laws from twisted anger.
Subject: historic footage galore!!!!!!!
Subject: Attitude schooling... Not a song by Carly Simon!
Alright, anyways, this film is all about the education one can get to learn how to drive. From kindergarten, where thereÂs magic tricks from policemen to musical chairs with a law abiding slant. Then, a little bit later, the kids get to drive! But wait a minute! These cars are all miniaturized! They get to drive around in a miniature driving course! The kids all take turns, alternating between driving and being pedestrians, cops, or heck riding farm equipment on the roads, lol. Soon after all of this training, youÂd expect the kids to be expert drivers right? Well, in case youÂre NOT, well then youÂre hauled to ÂAttitude schoolÂ (again, look at the students at the very beginning of this scene.. they look bored as heck). Anyways, they all get to do fun little science center exhibits related to driving AND get to go out with a cop on his beat! Man, I wanna go to that school as well! This is all narrated by Jimmy Stewart by the way, in his Âjust us folksÂ voice. A very classic bit of film euphemera, and is highly recommended!
Subject: Tomorrow's Drivers
Ratings: Camp/Humor Value: ***. Weirdness: ****. Historical Interest: *****. Overall Rating: ****. Also available on The Educational Archives, Vol. 3: Driver's Ed.